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Marriage of Sticks, The [Hardcover]

3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 26.49 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 9 1999

A hip young woman sees an uncanny old woman in a wheelchair by the freeway in the middle of nowhere. Back home in New York, she marries an older man. They move to a large old house along the Hudson River, and she begins to see ghosts. Then, as in vintage Carroll, things get really strange. This may well be Carrolls best fantasy novel.

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From Amazon

Jonathan Carroll is a writer other writers envy. He's been described as a "cult favorite" whose works go out of print too quickly in the USA, despite his popularity in Europe and the admiration of reviewers. It may be because Carroll uses fantastic elements, but doesn't write genre fantasy; his books are often haunting, even frightening, but they're not horror novels. He puzzles you, surprises you, and always makes you think about how what he's saying might apply to your life.

In The Marriage of Sticks, Miranda Romanac is a thirtysomething dealer in rarities who loves her work and lifestyle, but feels unfulfilled. As her friend Zoe says,

you don't expect anything better to happen because you've lived too long and seen too much to have any more hope. I'm luckier than you. I don't think life's very friendly either, but I know we can control hope. You can turn it on and off like a spigot. I try to keep mine on full blast.

Miranda struggles to change her life after upsetting revelations at a high school reunion. She has an affair with a married man who leaves his wife and children for her. She lives with ghosts of her past and future, with what might have been and could be. She's forced to face the consequences of her actions and the effect she has on others' lives by being who she is. Finally, she learns "to live without everything" and be content. --Nona Vero

From Publishers Weekly

In the first half of Carroll's new fantasy (after Bones of the Moon), there is little to prepare readers for the surrealism of the second half. Over one hundred pages of aged protagonist Miranda Romanac's memoirs of quotidian high school and yuppie romance drag by. Although there are wonderful insights and poetic phrases, the whole is drowned in eldersprache: actual scenes are far outweighed by a distancing voice heavy with reflection. Then, in the midst of Miranda's passionate adulterous affair with a New York art dealer, very strange things start to happen. Miranda's lover suddenly dies. Apparitions haunt and bloody her in the house given to her by Frances Hatch, a former mistress of Kazantzakis and Giacometti. Alternate worlds open before her, and Frances helps Miranda navigate: they have an ancient connection, it turns out. The writing abruptly shifts in the second half, becoming poetic and magical, dense with a wonderful strangeness reminiscent of Fellini and urgent with inklings of horrors around the corner. Miranda must discover the awful truth of what she is, while weird ancients watch and guide. Carroll often startles with the deftness of his insights, both personal and metaphysical, and there are many lines that, for their poetry, one wants to cut out and frame. But this book is alarmingly full of shoehorns and ad hoc explanations. It feels as if Carroll drafted part one at a gallop, then crafted part two as an improvisation, reincorporating and reinterpreting the opening material as fantastic: too many rabbits from too many hats. But for all the overweening cleverness, beauty and wisdom reside here. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative Entertainment May 12 2003
As someone recently bit by the Carroll bug, I may not be the most impartial critic. Still I found this book was very enjoyable. I understand the swiftly shifting underlying cosmology of the novel will lose many readers. But it is this which drew me in deeper. Yes, the characters may seem alittle too privledged to connect with some but the underpinnings are sound. I like the fact that while Miranda is sympathetic that when the revelation about her character comes we are not unaware of her personal flaws up to this point. The key to much of the characterization is though we like the characters, we can see their shortcomings. How often do you see that?!
Also having read The Wooden Sea first, I was thrilled to see Frannie again. It should be noted that Kissing The Beehive, this novel, and The Wooden Sea make a rather discrete trilogy of novels. While indvidual stories, they certainly lend a certain resonance to each other.
So if you want something that entertains and provokes thought, you can't go wrong with Carroll. Not the best place to start - I read Sleeping in Flame first but would recommend The Wooden Sea as a good place to start - but still very good. Then again just pick one and jump in. Well worth the time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good but far from perfect March 7 2003
I loved the first part of the book, introducing the characters and their plaes in the world. And the descriptions of falling in and out of love seemed a bit unrealistic but still beautifully written and I couldn't put the book down. And I loved the ending and where the whole book went. The middle section of the book, as the weird X-filesesque events start to happen and you don't really understand why, seemed clunky to me, and was not as enjoyable. In some ways I wish he could have figured out a smoother way to bridge the two wonderful parts.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Who cares? Nov. 12 2002
Clearly I'm in the minority here, but I did not enjoy this book at all. Part 1 just did not ring true to me. First, I found the characters to be completely one-dimensional. Miranda reads like a female character written by a man. And Hugh -- handsome, philosophical, patient and willing to leave his wife! -- read to me like a man's idea of a woman's idea of the ideal man! Second, I had no idea where the book was headed and frankly, didn't much care.
Then, Part 2, the weird stuff kicks in. I didn't care about the characters in the first place, so I didn't much care what happened to them or why. I had literally no interest in deciphering the events/visions/ghosts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun trying to be deep April 13 2002
...I both found a delightful author and a disappointment. Carroll is an excellent storyteller, weaving story within story ... I especially appreciated his German folktale without an ending. He does an excellent job of reinterpreting events in light of later understanding (self-understanding) of the characters. He illustrates the "seven degrees of separation" by the constant discovery of interrelationships between the characters. He easily blends multiple world views/realities into a coherent whole. The result is a book that keeps you reading, awaiting the next revision of your understanding of the storyline and of the motivation of the characters. This revision literally continues to the last page.
My disappointment - the story depends upon an acceptance of a division of humanity into "them" and "us". Given the ordinariness of Miranda in the first section of the novel, I found it difficult to buy into her "otherness" - more difficult to accept than the alternative worldviews that caused the volume to be placed in the "fantasy" reading section.
I will certainly read additional books by Jonathan Carroll, expecting that other books will not share this flaw.
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